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Tourists’ inflow tumbles by 76 percent in 3 years

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Number of tourists visiting the country declined by about 76 percent between 2017 and 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, The Business Times has learnt.

According to figures from the Department of Tourism, the country recorded a total number of 830,000 tourists visiting the country in 2017, which rose to 932,000 in 2018.

The highest number of visitors coming to Malawi was recorded in 2019, when it reached 978,000 before a sharp drop in 2020 to 198,000.

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A Country Summary Report published by the African Nature- Based Tourism platform early this year indicates that in 2019, the total contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was 6.7 percent and the sector provided close to 516,200 jobs.

However, as a result of the Covid pandemic and restrictions, the total contribution to the GDP decreased to 3.2 percent in 2020 and caused a loss of 167,000 jobs in the travel and tourism sector.

In an interview, Chairperson for the Tourism Council of Malawi Justin Dzimkambani said there was a need to enhance the country’s visibility on the international scene to boost the numbers.

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“People out there do not know what Malawi has to offer. More so, we need to improve our tourist destination centres. We could enhance cultural tourism through all these traditional ceremonies we have such as Umthetho and Umhlangano.

“We should also target Europeans that want to visit Malawi and charter planes for them to fly directly into Malawi; we could work with schools there and have their students visiting Malawi. Further we need to put our products in packages such that someone who wants to visit the lake should also visit the national parks or Mulanje Mountain. That way we would spread the word on offers when they travel back to their countries,” Dzimkambani said.

In a separate interview, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Tourism at Mzuzu University Zandi Kankhuni said the local tourism industry is like a gem that needs polishing to compete favourably within the region.

“We need proper infrastructure that would support the tourism cities in the country. For example, we need good roads to connect these cities but also we should enhance awareness among the middle class for local tourism to get a boost,” Kankhuni said.

Deputy Director of Tourism Noah Nansongole said the government was aware of the various challenges affecting the industry and is working towards addressing them.

Global tourism industry had 1.5 billion tourists in 2019, out of which, five percent came to Africa, 60 percent of whom visited sub- Saharan Africa which was dominated by South Africa. Malawi got only 3 percent.

Tourism has been earmarked as one of the sectors with potential to contribute substantially to the national economy.

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